Volts Give Car-Sharing A New Charge

Duke unveils four electric Chevy Volts to rent through WeCar 

The Volt's dashboard features screens that display gas and battery cell power, along with other information.
The Volt's dashboard features screens that display gas and battery cell power, along with other information.

With no car on campus and errands to run every week, junior Emmanuel Lim is excited about his newest option for getting around - WeCar.

Since Duke's new car-sharing program debuted Aug. 15, Lim has rented a car three times, checking out one of four electric-powered Chevy Volts to drive to the South Square Mall Target and other stores.

"I'm a big proponent of environmental friendliness, so I wanted to see if it would be something that would be good to use and could become more popular in the future," Lim said. "I had never driven an electric car before and it looked appealing. I was very impressed with how quiet it was and the acceleration."

Images of Chevy Volts available for rent through WeCar.

Parked in consecutive spaces in the Bryan Center Meter Lot on West Campus, the Chevy Volts can travel up to 50 miles on its battery charge alone, depending on terrain, temperature and driving technique. Once the battery is depleted, the car's onboard gas generator creates electricity that powers the Volt. The total range with a full gas tank and battery is about 400 miles.

The Volts can be plugged into any outlet and have a power cord for connection. On campus, there are special charging stations at the Bryan Center Meter Lot. Drivers push a button on the driver's door to open the small hatch on the left, front side of the car. Drivers then plug the charging cord into the plug of the car. Depending on climate, Volt can take up to 10 hours to fully charge. (Additional instructions on how to charge the cars are in the owner's manual in the glove box).

The Volts are among 12 other Chevrolet vehicles available to Duke students, faculty and staff through the WeCar car-sharing program, which is operated by Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Other Chevrolet cars across Duke's campuses include the Cruze, Malibu, Aveo, Equinox and Traverse. 

"We're excited to now be among the first university campuses in the country to offer an even greener way to get around with our Chevy Volts," said Sam Veraldi, director of Parking and Transportation Services. "This is just another way Duke promotes environmentally-friendly behavior."

Along with Lim, Karl Leif Bates  is also excited about renting the Volt. Bates even has a special connection to the car. He was working as a communications consultant for General Motors in 2001 during the company's search for a mass-market hybrid vehicle with an electric engine. The Volt is the eventual product of work that was being done in the research and design departments of General Motors while Bates was working with the company. 

"The Volts may just be arriving, but this was something I remember working on a decade ago," said Bates, who came to Duke in 2007 and is director of research communications with the Office of News and Communications. "I'd love to own one, but $40,000 is too expensive. I plan to join WeCar just to drive the Volt."

See how to charge a Chevy Volt.

The Volts on campus can be rented for $9 per hour, $38 overnight (6 p.m. to 8 a.m.) or $69 for 24 consecutive hours. The electric cars are rated as the most fuel-efficient compact car sold in the United States by the Environmental Protection Agency and are another part of Duke's growing sustainable transportation options.

Duke community members new to car-sharing can join WeCar for a $35 annual membership fee. The fee will be refunded with a free $35 driving credit on the new account. Once enrolled, members receive a card that allows access to vehicles.

WeCar rentals cost $8 to $10 an hour or $66 to $72 per day, depending on vehicle model. All fuel, maintenance and basic liability insurance is covered with a WeCar membership and all cars can be driven up to 200 miles per day with a 45 cent cost per additional mile.